“It is a natural response for communities to want to offer ‘help’ to their partners in the form of money and some partners may expect it. However, successful partnerships depend on equality and mutuality, and such charity can actually hinder development. The importance of reciprocity or ‘mutual exchange’ must be recognized.”

–Toolkit for Learning, UKOWLA 2006

“Take every penny you have set aside in aid for Tanzania and spend it explaining to people the facts and causes of poverty.”

–Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania, 1961-1985

Often the question of financial aid and charity-based projects comes up when looking for a partnership or project opportunity for your students and school. Sometimes, even the way global citizenship education is presented and framed can reinforce and perpetuate a certain stereotype that charity is the only way that rich North American folks can help. This is not the case.

In this section, we take a look at why a strictly charitable approach can be detrimental to students and recipients alike, and how you as an educator can augment your projects to ensure a rich breadth and depth of learning experience for your students.

Sometimes charitable aims can be detrimental because they:

  • Focus on finance at the expense of other activities to which both partners or groups can contribute equally (mutual learning and reciprocity)
  • Put financial inequalities centre stage and divert attention from other imbalances that ought to be addressed
  • Make the partner receiving the aid dependant on this income
  • Patronize the partner receiving the aid.

Charitable aims can also undermine educational opportunities by:

  • Reinforcing, rather than challenging, stereotypes of rich, powerful, and independent communities in the North and poor, weak, and dependent communities in the South
  • Perpetuating narrow views on poverty and development
  • Hindering critical thinking about underlying injustices and causes of poverty, and thereby encouraging an acceptance of aid as a longterm solution.

Often, partner organizations want and need financial support. This can be a difficult issue to address because often schools want to express their support this way, and organizations may request it. However, there is a big difference between raising funds as a part of a diverse set of learning activities, and just attending an event or raising and donating money in an isolated, one-off type event.

There are so many great learning opportunities when embarking on global citizenship education: there are unique projects, partnership opportunities, events, and lessons. With a little time, effort, and creativity, global citizenship education can be a great and equitable experience for all.

Here is how the Centre for Global Education moves beyond charity and challenges traditional attitudes towards development.

Further resources:

Challenging indifference to extreme poverty: Southern perspectives on global citizenship and change

Global Citizenship Education: Adult Education and Development (DVV International)

Éducation à la citoyenneté mondiale : Thèmes et objectifs d’apprentissage
Organisationdes Nations Unies pour l’éducation, la science et la culture
 (French only)

Éducation à la citoyenneté mondiale : Une nouvelle vision (Document final de la Consultation technique sur l’éducation à la citoyenneté mondiale)
Organisationdes Nations Unies pour l’éducation, la science et la culture (French only) 

L’ABC de l’éducation à la citoyenneté mondiale
Organisationdes Nations Unies pour l’éducation, la science et la culture (French only)